A new study has revealed that spending time outside your house can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, including stress.
This conclusion was arrived at after scientists from the University of East Anglia data from almost 300 million people from 20 countries, the UK and the US, reports Daily Mail.
They also assessed the effect of nature on people in Australia, Europe and Japan – where Shinrin yoku, or forest bathing, is popular.
The researchers hope the discovery – which backs up years of research – will prompt doctors to recommend patients spend more time in green spaces.
‘Green space’ was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation as well as urban greenspaces, such as parks and street greenery.
The team compared the health of people with little access to green spaces to that of people with the highest amounts of exposure.
A diverse range of health benefits from spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces was uncovered.
According to Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, a PhD student and lead author of the study, the research team is unsure what causes the benefits found.
‘Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn’t been fully understood. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. People living closer to nature also had reduced diastolic blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In fact, one of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol – a marker of stress. This is really important because in the UK, 11.7 million working days are lost annually due to stress, depression or anxiety,’ Twohig-Bennett said.
She further suggested that Japan has the ‘right idea’.
The researchers believe people living near greenspace may have more opportunities for physical activity and socialising.
Their study further claims that exposure to a diverse variety of bacteria present in natural areas could boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.
Inflammation – the body’s response to injury – is heavily linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
Japanese studies have shown that phytoncides – organic anti-bacterial compounds – released by trees could provide a health boost.
According to Professor Andy Jones, co-author of the study, published in the journal Environmental Research: ‘We often reach for medication when we’re unwell. But exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognised as both preventing and helping treat disease.
‘Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact. Miss Twohig-Bennett added: ‘We hope that this research will inspire people to get outside more and feel the health benefits for themselves. Hopefully our results will encourage policymakers and town planners to invest in the creation, regeneration, and maintenance of parks and green-spaces.”
Via Daily Mail